Lissemys – Southern Asia softshell turtles

Their shells are falsely believed to have medicinal value and are ground into powder for making traditional medicines

The genus Lissemys, encompassing three species of freshwater flap-shell turtles native to South Asia, presents a fascinating example of adaptative evolution within aquatic reptiles. These turtles are distinguished by their unique femoral flaps on the plastron, earning them the “flap-shelled” designation. These specialized skin flaps allow the turtles to retract their limbs and head within their shell for protection and then cover themselves almost entirely, providing an effective defense mechanism against predators.

Morphologically, Lissemys turtles exhibit distinct characteristics that vary with age. The carapace of an adult is notably more circular in shape, offering a robust shield, while juveniles have a more oval carapace that expands in front of the hind legs to accommodate growth. Unlike some turtle species, Lissemys lacks a lateral ridge on the nasal septum and features a smooth jawline, contributing to its streamlined appearance. The nose is small and stocky, suited to their aquatic lifestyle. Both males and females possess short, thick tails and large, clawed paws, which are essential for maneuvering through their freshwater habitats and digging.

The dietary habits of Lissemys turtles are omnivorous and highly varied, reflecting their opportunistic feeding behavior. They consume a wide range of food sources, including amphibians, fish, shrimp, snails, aquatic plants, and even terrestrial vegetation such as leaves, flowers, fruits, grasses, and seeds. This diverse diet allows Lissemys turtles to thrive in various environments, from rivers and lakes to swamps and temporary ponds, where these food sources are abundant.